My grandfather refused to eat white-shelled eggs. Brown eggs only. They’re better for you, he would say. No amount of arguing, not even actual proof, would change his mind.
My grandfather suffered from what could be called the “Sicilian Syndrome,” a double-barreled dose of stubbornness and superstition. Those of us who trace our heritage to Sicily and southern Italy wouldn’t dare start the New Year without eating lentils. Forgetting this tradition isn’t as bad as someone giving you the malocchio – evil eye – which can result in all sorts of misfortune. And while the Last Supper Curse can result in calamity, putting a hat on your bed is sure to bring grave consequences.
No matter what kind of proof you showed our superstitious ancestors, they would reject every argument with a dismissive wave the hand – the right hand, of course. They were masters of cognitive dissonance, ignoring any evidence that contradicted their beliefs. Former US senator and UN ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said we are all entitled to our opinions; we are not entitled to our own facts. But this is the 21st century, not 1972. We are now in the age of “alternative facts.”
No, I don’t dare wade into politics here or anywhere else. Instead, I’ll raise a much safer, less divisive topic: (ahem) the Catholic Church’s singular belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Wait, you mean religion IS a divisive topic? That not even Catholics believe in the Real Presence of Jesus?
Cognitive dissonance alert!
Belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is a bedrock tenet of the Catholic Faith – Catholicism 101. Yet, the 2019 benchmark Pew Research Center survey showed 69 percent of all Catholics believe the Eucharist is merely a symbol of Jesus. The University of Notre Dame’s McGrath Institute for Church Life had issues with the study’s methodology, but its own 2023 McGrath survey still showed that 36 percent of Catholics deny the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
In this logical age of science and data, denial of Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist may be passed on to our children. Following one Sunday homily on the Real Presence, a young girl sitting behind me asked her mother if the priest was telling the truth. “Absolutely not,” she answered derisively. That mother may be surprised that science actually refutes her and reinforces this basic Church tenet.
In the past 18 alone years, independent scientists have identified at least four instances in which human blood and/or tissue were found incorporated into a transubstantiated host – 2006 in Tixtla, Mexico; two years later in Sokolka, Poland; on Christmas Day 2013 in Legnica, Poland; and a year ago this past June in Honduras. The scientists were not told the sources of the samples. The tissue was distressed cardiac muscle, the blood was Type AB with a positive Rh factor.
My grandfather didn’t need any of this evidence. He believed the Eucharist was Jesus. So did his children. And his parents, his grandparents, great-grandparents and as far back as he could count. Back before scientific proof. Even before cultural superstitions. They relied on their faith, and their own spiritual interactions with the Savior. Any contrary opinion would surely have been met with cognitive dissonance.